Jayson Lusk, one of the most cited food economists, encouraged farmers and grocers to be advocates for modern production agriculture this week during a visit to Iowa.
Lusk, professor and the Willard Sparks Endowed Chair in the agricultural economics department at Oklahoma State University and author of “The Food Police,” spoke to about 350 farmers, ag stakeholders and food retailers and wholesalers at the invitation of the Iowa Food & Family Project (www.iowafoodandfamily.com). Venues included Iowa State University Alumni Hall in Ames July 8 and the Iowa Grocery Industry Association annual convention July 9 in Okoboji.
The researcher, author and speaker is respected for his work in challenging the myths and stereotypes threatening the future of domestic food production. Lusk said the growing disconnect among consumers of how grain and livestock are raised today is the primary culprit. It’s up to those all along the food chain to work together to bolster consumer confidence by openly talking about agriculture, he said. It all starts with the farmers.:
Lusk urged food retailers and wholesalers to pay attention to what consumers’ do, no what they say, and to get engaged in the conversation.
“Because of your unique position in the food chain, you as food retailers have a responsibility to provide accurate information to consumers,” he said. “Farmers are some of your biggest assets. Let them help you communicate.”
Ben Schmidt traveled from his Iowa City farm to Ames to get tips on how to better communicate what he does to the public. Periodically the media calls for information about soybean and corn production and urban neighbors ask about it too, along with a ride in the combine.
Schmidt, a member of the Iowa Soybean Association board of directors, said it’s important for farmers to embrace the opportunity to connect with consumers, and those who influence farm policy.
Lusk urged farmers and retailers to offer a positive message about crop and livestock production. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who attended the July 8 event in Ames, considers that one of his most important jobs.
“The power of a well-reasoned argument with an emotional attachment could cause folks to identify with agriculture and be very constructive,” said Northey, who also farms near Spirit Lake.
The Iowa Food & Family Project (www.iowafoodandfamily.com) celebrates the continuous improvement of Iowa’s farm families and their dedication to providing wholesome food for everyone. It invites Iowans to become better acquainted with the dedicated farmers who grow their food and more confident in today’s agriculture. The Iowa Food & Family Project is funded in part by soybean, pork, beef, egg, corn, turkey and dairy checkoffs.